Church Link News: September 2014
Welcome to the September edition of the Church Link News. This month we focus on Wales and the development of our Veterans Homes across the country. We are also taking this opportunity to introduce you to 2 key staff based in Wales: our Chaplaincy Leader, Reverand Kieran Webster; and our Corporate & Community Fundraiser, Lee Kendrick.
We start with a word from Kieran Webster, our Chaplaincy leader in Wales;
We have a word in Wales, hwyl, which has a number of meanings and usage. It can be a greeting or a farewell, or used in the sense of 'how are you?'. It is about mood, emotion and energy. It is, truly, an important and inspiring word within the rich heritage and culture Wales. It points to something spiritual about the people of Wales. So much so that people will say, "What does Hwyl mean to you?". The Welsh rugby player, Gavin Henson said: "Hwyl is all about passion, spirit and a sense of achievement - it really is how I felt after our win over the English!"
The word also courses through the deep stream of Christian tradition in Wales. A famous Welsh preacher, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once said that, just as hwyl means the 'canvass of a ship', in preaching it means 'catching the wind of the Spirit', and being carried along by great spiritual power. In the 1780s, Christmas Evans was said to have 'caught the hwyl', and the phrase continued, including during the great later revivals in Wales, of 1858 and 1904. An historical bedrock of Hwyl is being made alive in Christ, by the work and power of the Holy Spirit.
I am not Welsh; and I don't (yet) speak Welsh. I am not sure that I have the linguistic skills to ever become a Welsh speaker. That is my excuse, anyway. In fact, I am from Weymouth in Dorset. I have not been here long; having moved to Swansea in 1989, I am a newcomer! So, by way of an introduction to Alabaré Church Link, I am married to Catherine, who is a Subject Officer for Music and Drama at the WJEC examinations board. My family live in Cardiff, where I am the main carer for our two energetic boys aged 10 and 9. I am dually-qualified as an ordained Baptist Minister and Social Worker.
My main social work experience was in a Community Mental Health Team in Merthyr Tydfil, as a case manager and ASW, and also assessing substance misuse clients for residential rehabilitation. This was followed by 10 years of Baptist ministry, planting a Church and developing community services, particularly projects that connected with families and helped young people make a difference in their community. Nowadays, I am Chaplain at Cardiff City
Football Club, This has its ups and, after last season, its downs. I love all things Italian, having lived and attended school in Italy, for part of my childhood. I enjoy relaxing with my family in the Welsh countryside, going to the opera with Catherine, off-road cycling, keeping fit at the gym, and going to gigs and for curries with mates.
Despite my lack of 'Welshness' in upbringing, I am, more and more, 'culturally' Welsh. I am warmly accepted and have a sense of belonging. One of my favourite expressions is hwyl a sbri, which is animation and vivacity. We have plenty of that in the Wales Homes for Veterans Local Team; and, plenty too, in the developing Chaplaincy Team in Wales, and the vibrant networks that exist in local communities, churches, faith groups and the third sector.
At our first Local Team meeting, we participated in a contemplative spiritual activity, reflecting on the hwyl a sbri of work serving our veterans in Wales. The fresh vivacity of our personal hopes, fears and dreams: taking a square of paper we reflected individually on this question to discover what was on our minds, before committing this to paper and folding
each corner into the middle and placing our own piece into a bowl of water. As we reflected quietly or prayed silently, each in our own way, we were able to still our minds. As we concluded our two minutes of spiritual reflection, we saw that the hopes, fears and dreams on each piece of paper had opened up like an orchid on a lake, and we were encouraged to look to what the future will open up for the Alabaré initiative in Wales.
As you will know, water is often a symbol, for people and for religions, of clarity, purity, and new starts. In the gospel of John, Jesus promises a gift of living water, which is the life and light of the Holy Spirit. Within the context, of the expectation of Judaism in first century Palestine, Jesus was, through himself, pointing towards the breaking in of the power of a new age. It is this sense of pilgrimage towards a better world that was translated into our modern sense of progress. In our lives today we are discovering a spirituality that transforms, what is to us, an open future, with the fulfilment of promise. This is, in part, what Jesus meant when he said he had the words of life; through faith, hopes will be realised, in surprising ways; fears will be stilled, as challenges are understood or overcome with love; and, dreams will be fulfilled, in ways to inspire fresh vision and action. This is a spirituality that I believe inspires Alabaré.
Getting back to Wales, it is a land of diverse and resilient local communities, full of hwyl for neighbours, the dreams of their nation, their traditions, their native languages, dialects and heritage in expressive arts. From the urban corridors of the South, through the cultural and political force of the Capital City, the tight communities of the Valleys, the municipal story-telling heritage of the coastal towns, life on the land in the borders and rural mid and west; taking us up across the dark, remote and rugged Mountains, rich in mystery, legend and rebellion, to the North, with its distinctive take on being Welsh; these communities increasingly reflect the pluralistic reality of modern Britain. However, each one is passionate about their local history and identity, with a strong sense of warmth, spirituality and solidarity.
My vision and aspiration for Chaplaincy in Wales is that we continue to develop the Alabaré journey in pastoral care and the nature of community. We will also explore how we can better serve others, both within our homes and within their local communities. As Chaplaincy grows, therefore, we will be recruiting a variety of men and women who have a significant contribution to make to the pastoral and spiritual care of Alabaré service-users; each will have particular expertise to contribute, through military service, in the local community, and in a wide variety of artistic, recreational and vocational skills. We will also be learning, with humility, how these gifts, talents and passions can build community capacity and the spirit of community, both in the lives of service-users, their own communities and in our organisation, Alabaré.
A critical success factor will be to build links with Churches across the denominations and geography of Wales. With this in mind, the Chaplains here will value your prayers, resources, ideas, and relationships, being invested towards this goal of seeing the values and fruit of the Kingdom demonstrated in the lives of veterans in Wales. As we see the Lord grow Alabare's Church Links in Wales, through the work of leaders, staff and volunteer Chaplains, you will hear stories of people achieving fulfilling lives. There will be challenges to navigate and barriers to overcome. However, as you encourage the Churches in Wales to take up the mantle that you have already grasped, we hope to see individuals and society transformed.
The planned development of homes and services for veterans in Wales is bold and will have a significant, life-changing impact on the lives of countless men, women and families. As a society, we are only beginning to understand the medical and social cost of recent military engagements, and recognising what needs to be done to help each veteran achieve a fulfilling life. I am excited by the privilege to be involved with an organisation that has these outcomes and values at the heart of its vision and operations. It is a passion that energises and drives us. It is a passion that we could call Alabare's very own hwyl. A goal, which I will know is being achieved when it is associated with inspiring stories from Wales, at the ringing of the Alabaré bell at Riverside House.
May we and all our supporters continue to walk with God this summer and throughout the year in whatever we do and wherever we go. God Bless.
Consider volunteering in Wales!
Volunteering for Alabaré in Wales offers you the opportunity to enhance the quality of someone's life, as well as your own, and could lead to new and lasting friendships.
We have a range of opportunities for volunteers throughout our Wales Homes for Veterans: perhaps you'd like to become a befriender, or maybe you'd like to join Kieran's Chaplaincy team, or fancy assisting our Wales Community Fundraiser with events. Click here for more details.
Friday 5th September - Pontypool Male Voice Choir sing for our Wales H4V at St Hilda's Church in Pontypool
Sunday 5th October - Cardiff Half Marathon - Register today or consider sponsoring an Alabaré runner
Friday 10th October - Wales Sleep Out in Llandaff Cathedral.